tv [untitled] August 25, 2012 2:00am-2:30am PDT
used to be a woman who appeared under that street light over there and our heads would all go as one with the street light. it was though we were looking for the lady who walked in front of our house and didn't have a head. when she got to this street light she vanished. then in the same breath she would say, now would you go into the house and get me a drink of water? i would have to go into that creeky old house all by myself. it wasn't so bad in the living room because the lights from the front porch, but she had a table that had claw feet and i knew it was going to snatch me by the ankles and never be
heard from again. i scaled along the wall carefully. when i got to the kitchen, it was pitch dark, couldn't see your hand before you. why didn't you just switch on the light? we didn't have a wall switch in that old country house. there was a light in the center of the room with a cord that hung down and had to go all the way into that dark, dark kitchen, like going into a mouth. you go in and feeling around for the pull switch. meanwhile my brother would slip around the side of the house. he was really my uncle, but grew up like siblings. my uncle brother. but leon would come in the back door and stand by the refrigerator. when i would switch on the light he would jump out
snarling like she was changing into wolfman. i would know it was him. he would -- i would start running and hop passed the table and out through the living room and my grandmother would say don't slam, bam, the screen door. i loved being deliciously frightened by my grandmother's stories. i loved being frightened as most young people love to be frightened. fast forward again, i decided i know, i am going to tell my grandmother's stories, so i wrote the dark:30, southern tales of the supernatural.
i had never written anything longer. these are short stories, a collection of 10. based on southern stories, my stories but based on stories that i heard. they were like stories i heard. one in particular comes from my growing up. we managed our monsters. i was the founder and first president of monster watches of america. i ate 6 boxes of crinkle cereal and in the mail i received 6 glow in the dark id badges, oh yes. and i invited 5 friends to join
me. the most prized possession was the monster book, you know the monster rules, you know them. module no. 10, monsters cannot come within the circle of light. if you have light, they can't come in that circle of lot. monster rule no. 7, you don't play near where monsters live. isn't that common sense? why do they have people stay in houses and it says get out? i say who wrote that? [laughter]. so in my book when the house says get out, well get out. monster no. 5 says never lie about seeing a monster.
we all know they are there, those of us that are believers. you can see them just out of your sight. hear them scratching around in the dark, they are there all right. you can't say you have seen one if you haven't. monster rule no. 2, never let a monster see you cry. no matter how frightened you are, fluff up. fluff up, because when they see you are frightened they make all of those noises and scare you to death. never let them see you crying. the last one, the prime directive, monster rule no. 1, if you love and know you are loved, love protects against all monsters. i did those monster rules in the dark:30, the last stories.
there is typical monsters, i was sure there was a monster that lived in my grandmother's chicken coup. the last thing is, i tell the monster i am not afraid of you anymore because i am the granddaughter, no i am the oldest granddaughter of james leon oldhand. he loves me and i know it and the monster vanished. you know, even to this day, monsters still do come. no they are not the childhood monsters, but just as wicked. you might know them, the irs. [laughter].
i hope there are no irs workers here today. bad reviews, i think you know those. [inaudible] sexism, regionalism, we can go on and on with the isms. i am the oldest granddaughter of james leon, he is a monster fighting and so am i. that comes from southern tales of supernatural. a porch lie is not a mean or vicious lie, it is a story of exaggeration and humor. the one that loretta told you
about, cake lawrence. all the people that knew him called him cake, he used to steal the warm cake that his mother put out. he would cut a slice and run off to the crawl space. they call him cake. i use that in my story. those 2 come from my grandmother, she was the germ, the seed of those 2 books and many others. let's go back to that front porch again. this time daddy james is the story teller. we sit at his feet and listen about stories about sara and pat and nollen. that is my brother, my sister, and me.
we thought we were just as clever and smart and just as brave as the children in his story. he told stories vaguely familiar, but different some how because he told them his way. you see, i had no idea my grandfather was a functional illiterate and encouraged all 3 of us, his grandchildren to read. the way he encouraged me, he'd say y'all read to me what they taught you up at the schoolhouse today. i would whip out my dick and jane. see jane run. run, he endured that. he allowed me to read to him. i had no idea in other families the adults read to children.
in my house, children read to the adults. imagine the confidence they gave me in my readings. i loved to read out loud. enjoyed it immensely. so i would read dick and jane all the way up to julius caesar. when i came to a word difficult, he would say work with it little sister. he wouldn't jump in and tell me. he would let me work it out so i did. i learned to jump into words. that built my confidence, grandmother and ggrandfather were from the old school. i can remember borrowing $25
from my grandmother. i was taking out my checkbook to pay her. she said no, darling, don't give me a little piece of paper. what did i give you. i said a 20 and a 5. so bring me that. they went to the light company and paid their light bills. they went to the department store and paid whatever. they went there once or twice a week to take care of business. the process of going through things, my grandmother would take me to the library. all along the way there were places where we couldn't go to
the andrew jackson hotel, we couldn't go to morten's cafeteria. there was a paramount theatre, we had to go in the back door, separate water fountains. it was a very negative experience. when i got to the library, right above the door, all are welcome. i could go in the front door. i could remember the librarian, she had a bonnet on the back of her head. very sensible shoes. i look at librarians today, that is how they look. she always spoke in a whisper. didn't talk out loud in the
library. whispered. she was so kind to me that i loved librarians. when they ask me to do something, it is hard for me to say no. and that is why i flew in the dark at night from atlanta to come out here. [laughter]. but it is because of that generosity of the national public library. so i went there to get my books and i would bring them home and read all 3. then the next week i would take them back to the library. i would read often. when you read better, you read success. i credit the national public library with my successes as a young reader and a young writer. my grandfather had 2 books on his shelf. one was king james version of
the bible, the other was bull finch's mythology. it was that thick and on the mantle. i can see it as clearly as i am looking at them now. keu remember looking at the pictures and beginning to pick through some of the stories. and i learned to love those stories and if you read my books as a collection, and some people have, you will see that those 2 books inform most of my writings in subtle ways, not overt, in subtle ways you can see those books and the influence that they have on my writing. daddy james would tell store reus about little girls named sara and pat and little boy
named nollin and one he told in particular was one of my favorites. the 3 kids had a chore for the grandmother. take a basket of eggs to a neighbor's house. along the way they were confronted by a wolf, bear, snake, and fox. is they tricked that fox, and the bear and got them to the woods. it is a long, long summer and i don't have a contract, i said, maybe i'll try to write something, never written a picture book before. i sat at the word processor,
i'll write my grandfather books. all 16 pages. it is usually 6 to 7 pages long. i sent it to my editor anne swarts. she was at thow publishing books. at the time she was at dial. she was right out of college and a reader. she wrote my manuscripts. she said it has possibility. there is a story in there but way too much going on. you have 3 kids, a grandmother, a grandfather, you got a bear,
a snake, a wolf, and fox. a dog, cat, and a neighbor, way too much going on. if you'd like to rewrite it and shorten it some what and i'd be glad to look at it again. but that is not my grandfather's story. i can't do that. i thought i don't have a contract. i said i'll get rid of my brother and sister. [laughter]. and i'll keep myself. and i'll get rid of the wolf, bear, and snake and keep the fox because i like his voice. i dare say a little girl like you should be simply terrified of me. whatever do they teach children in school these days? whatever you are, you sure
think of heap of yourself as she skipped away from the fox leaving him to prove that he really was who he said he was. before long she came to a tree there were flowers and she picked wild flowers, this fox fled up beside her. prepare to be frightened. i am a fox because i have 6 luxurious furs. he leaned over for me to stoke his back. it is soft. it feels just like rabbit's fur. you are not a fox, you are a rabbit all the time trying to fool me. did you hear her call me a
rabbit? a mere bunny. i have you know young lady, i am a fox of rare breed. i am rated some of the finest hen houses from franklin to madison. i am a fox and you'll act accordingly. she put her hands on her hip and said [inaudible] she skipped away leaving the fox dumbfounded. got all the way through the woods tricking that fox. he had been reduced to sniffling and crying. he was a pitiful mess. give me once last chance i am certain i can prove it. about that time [inaudible] came through the woods. you can see it a little ways in the distance. fox didn't notice a thing. he was begging to be believed. wait, wait here it is.
i am a fox, he said yes, yes. sometimes he could run. it doesn't matter what i think anymore. it doesn't matter anymore. you have sharp teeth and can run fast. by the way he is looking all over for you. if fox dashed towards the woods, not to worry, the hound dog knows who i am. i have been out running that old miserable mutt for years like i told you i am a fox.
i know. i know. she turned toward ms. viola's with a basket of eggs. i rewrote it and sent it back and it was 7 pages long. that was the beginning of our relationship. we have done many picture books together. i did randy and brother wind which was one of jerry [inaudible] honor books. i have done my dearest apron. the latest one is [inaudible] the women of [inaudible] bend.
these are about the women that made those wonderful quilts all over the world. alabama, the poorest county in the depression. the women made these quilts because they needed to keep her children warm and would stack them to make a mattress. they covered the tables with them, they used them for their children to crawl on when they would go outside and have picnics. they used the quilts for everything, small ones and large ones. now today, those quilts are going for 25,000 and more. it was my pleasure to go to g's bend and had the opportunity to quilt with them.
my next picture book, i will share this with you and it is called never gotten. i would like to share it because this is something that had been in the process for about 20 years. i have been asking every west african that i have met, did you miss us? what i meant by that was are there stories in your culture that talk about the ones who were taken away? did you tell stories? did you sing songs, poetry, any remnant of anything i could use to tell a story that comes from that side over the year where
you looked and longed for us the way we looked and longed? in all those years, i did not find one story, didn't find one song. i am sure they are there, but i was unable to find them. i said okay, instead of whining and wondering, i'll do it myself. it is reason in free verse and about black smith, west african black smith. they were thought to be magicians. 1725, oh molly in the west africa. the drums -- be ware of sea
birds, be ware of men that steal up the river through the great forest. and into the savannah lands. the moans and groans, hundreds, thousands stolen, we rarely speak the taken, i will this time because you have asked. come back, back, back, far edge of memory. we recall them and they are black smith, by all accounts a master craftsman, worthy of praise, honored as a powerful magician. one who could speak the old names of the mother elements, earth, fire, water, wind. they would do as bidding, think.
people sing praise songs. he was a gifted black smith. he is not remembered for that. he is best remembered for being a loving father. when his beloved wife died only after a year and embraced his newborn son, i will raise you myself. the elder women with argued against it saying you'll grow up wild without a gentle hand of a mother, a gentle hand to guide him. must divide by custom, take another wife or give the baby to a mother who is childless. how will you feed the baby? you have no milk to give.
dinka would not change his mind. the tortoise doesn't have milk to give but knows how to take care of its young. shamelessly he tied the baby on his back like a woman and headed for his forge at the place where 7 generations of his clan had once stood. he set his feet firmly on the ground and called to earth, takoma, thank you for yielding up the ore from your underground storehouse of treasure. he lit the fire in his porch and called to fire, tokumbi thank you for making the ore plyable for i might shape it.
thank you for setting the iron and making it strong. dinka fanned the bellows and the fire rows began and called to win, thank you for revising fire and keeping my brow cooled in the heat of the day and lifting his arms in praise, dinka cried come now elders behold my beloved son. mother earth appears first ageless and forever beautiful, she kissed the baby and spoke softly, see how he grabs my finger. already strong like my mountain son. i a woman leaped into the air and swirled majestically in a
flaming red. it is a sign he will be an inspired leader inspiring and courageous. she blew the child a warm kiss that made him cool. sang to the child in old lull hra byes. a boy has come and laughter has come. a son has come and beauty has come. then the child gurgled and replied even now i can hear the music in his voice. suddenly wind spirits swished in turning and made the baby happily, we'll dance through the tall grass as you and i forever free.